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THE WORLD FINDS ITSELF AT THE BRINK OF A FOOD CRISIS YET AGAIN.

WE SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED.

By Timothy J. Dalton, Kansas State University,
As published in the Des Moines Register, Saturday, June 18, 2022

Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s warning at the recent World EconomicForum about the impact of the Ukrainian war on the global food economy should come as no surprise. The last major global price shocks are a little more than a decade old, and national and regional crises occur tirelessly. We need a proactive commitment by USAID to increase investment in global agricultural research and development to mitigate the negative impacts of current and future food crises.

Millions have died from starvation in the past half-century from crises in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan and Yemen, and the response has been reactive. While the science of famine early warning systems has evolved to identify where drought, flood, plagues and other natural events will impact local populations far in advance of a failed harvest, human-induced crises, like the one affecting us today, are harder to predict.

U.S. land grant universities have been working behind the scenes with limited investment from USAID of about $1.24billion total over 40 years to advance global food security. The Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), and now rebranded as the Feed the Future Innovation Labs (FtFIL), lead this charge. The Feed the Future Initiative and the Global FoodSecurity Acts of 2016 and 2018 were bilateral successes in Congress and led to increased investment in U.S. universities to work on agricultural research and development to reduce hunger around the world by focusing on collaboration with the private sector, universities and the equivalents of the U.S.Department of Agriculture in target nations.

Significant returns have been made on this small investment, with up to $8.52 of benefits for farmers and consumers in low- and middle-income countries for every$1 of cost to U.S. taxpayers, as well as human health and environmental benefits. The CRSP and FtFIL mechanisms did so through collaborative development of new crop varieties with higher yields and resistance against pests, integrated pest management techniques and improved crop storage. About four-fifths of these economic benefits accrued to individuals in poverty with incomes under 

“We need to interpret the signal of the current crisis as a call to action and redouble efforts to build more resilient and equitable food systems strategically aligned with global challenges through consistent and higher investment in agricultural research and development.”

Timothy J. Dalton, Kansas State University

 and about 29% to those in extreme poverty, especially in Africa, thereby reducing global poverty and generating sustainable advances in agricultural productivity simultaneously. This does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars of spill-in benefits to U.S. farming.

Global food trade has created a complacent system of trust and a disdain for investment in strategic, applied and adaptive agricultural research to advance our food system. We need to interpret the signal of the current crisis as a call to action and redouble efforts to build more resilient and equitable food systems strategically aligned with global challenges through consistent and higher investment in agricultural research and development. Secretary Vilsack’sannouncement on June 1 of $2.1 billion of investment to strengthen our domestic food system is a welcome sign. We need a common commitment by USAID to fund U.S.university involvement in international development of the global food system to build the harvest, rather than react to the lack of one

The World Finds Itself at the Brink of a Food Crisis Yet Again. We Shouldn’t be Surprised.
Timothy J. Dalton is a professor of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University and is also the director at the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet.
Significant returns have been made on this small investment, with up to $8.52 of benefits for farmers and consumers in low- and middle-income countries for every $1 of cost to U.S. taxpayers, as well as human health and environmental benefits. The CRSP and FtFIL mechanisms did so through collaborative development of new crop varieties with higher yields and resistance against pests, integrated pest management techniques and improved crop storage.

Dr. Timothy J. Dalton

Additional videos featuring Dr. Dalton & Dr. Fuglie